This morning we rode the subway to the colosseum. Not a Ram fan in sight, but we did encounter a young man in a “Rivers” Chargers basketball tank. A chuckle to start the day. The Roman Metro is much like those trains in DC, the Bay Area, and in Los Angeles, albeit with more graffiti contributions.
Upon arrival at the surface we were greeted by throngs of curious on-lookers and one very confident lad who answered many questions before ever getting to the pitch - he was a corraller - gathering groups of people to join spur of the moment tours of the Colosseum and Forum ruins. He greeted our polite decline with a cheery smile, even though we occupied his time and opportunity to gather others. We will be touring the grounds with our group tomorrow.
The structure is magnificent. It is larger than expected, and it is located in a center of activity. It is also well-protected by soldiers in military uniform, brandishing high-powered rifles, a reminder that this is by no means an insular part of the world. The structure is teeming with people already, and at multiple levels. Knowing what tomorrow promises helps temper our envy. We decide to move toward one of the churches our would-be guide directed us to, the Basilica de San Clemente - an old structure built atop two progressively older ones. It does not disappoint in any way but one; it is hard to find even with the 21st century navigation tools.
The heat. It is remarkably oppressive. It is unlike what we left behind in NYC as it is nowhere near so humid. It, is however not “Dry” and the combination of more degrees plus some humidity scorns us at every step. Shady spots and places to sit briefly become precious, and rather quickly.
Once finished with San Clemente, we decide to explore San Pietro de Incoviglio (“Saint Peter in Chains”). For this, we engage the services of a local taxi driver, a young lady who can hold her own among this male-dominated vocation. Though disappointed to learn we weren’t asking her to drive us to Saint Peter’s in Vatican City, she drives us along a path of unexpectedly lush surroundings, including a tree-canopy lined street one might expect to find in Northern California or New England. We arrive at San Pietro, and are treated to a feast for the eyes and the soul.
It is here that Blaise acquires a hat to replace what was lost on the trek here, a lightweight newsboy cap received from a coworker. Ten Euros is a reasonable price to pay for the avoidance of sunstroke-and-burn. Emboldened by the protection, we explore the adjacent building, which turns out to be an educational institution in the midst of an apparent passing-period between classes. We, no doubt stand out like sore thumbs: too old to be counted among the students, too casually-dressed to be mistaken for the professore. It’s an amusing detour that gives way to a desire to find a place to rehydrate and relax a spell. Along the way, we capture some images of the Colosseum from yet another angle.
Lunch is leisurely spent at the Exquisito, at a table exposed to all of the elements except sun. Delicious paninis, a beer and multiple glasses of ice water provide the energy to keep moving. Before departing, we spy in the distance a familiar-looking spire, one which must be the inspiration for the tower at Pasadena’s Saint Andrews parish. We hurry out on a quest for church number 3.
Learning is difficult, learning the hard way is more so. We learn the hard way that Rome is not laid out in a street grid but in a series of circular arcs. We come around a curve expecting to see our objective, but find instead a chunk of the ancient city wall. What of the disappearing bell-tower? We continue moving away from the Colosseum, hoping to reacquire our target on the horizon. Instead we happen upon a museum structure which surely must be the inspiration for Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. One can almost here the casino bells and dings in the distance. Along the way we notice the masses doing what we have done all the way, dodging in and out of shade, desperate to beat the oppressive heat. We are content to capture images of the exterior only, and then realize that our St. Andrew’s Spire is again visible on the horizon back in the direction we came. We set out again, spying an alternate route.
We get to the church - San Francesa del Roma, only to learn that it appears to be shuttered tight. What of the gathering crowds waiting in its shady grounds? It takes a few moments, but we learn that the side doors are open and inviting, though the main entrance is not. San Francesa does not disappoint either, with its ornate, three-dimensional ceilings. We linger and wander the sanctuary.